Mum's the Word - Mother plants explained
Your mother plant's the key to your best plant genetics - look after her! The healthier the mother, the healthier the cuttings. Here's how you choose, maintain and take cuttings from a mother plant.
Why Keep a Mother Plant?
Seeds are like a box of chocolates... you never know what you’re going to get. Plants grown from seeds all have a different genetic make up. They grow to different sizes, at different rates - results are inconsistent.
It's fine to start off from seeds - it's better than using cutting from somebody else's grow room (cross-contamination!)
If starting from seeds, take cuttings from all plants. Once you know what your best performer is, turn a cutting from that plant into your mother. From that mother, you'll get good, predictable cuttings from 6 months to 3 years.
How to Choose
Look for good genetics characteristings. Some of these include:
- Fast growth rates
- Good yield
- Smell, colour, taste
- Easiness to root cuttings
- Resistance to rot
When starting from seeds, take cuttings from all plants in vegetative growth. Never try to take cuttings in flowering.
Make sure you label plants and their cuttings, It's a good idea to keep good notes. Before long, you'll know which cuttings are worth keeping, based on how their parent plant performs.
Turn at least one of your cuttings into a mother plant by keeping it in constant vegetative growth (18hr light cycle).
Keeping a mother plant
It's not too tricky to maintain a mother. Here's are the basics.
You can keep your mother in almost any media or system.
The only media you can’t use is coco. After about 6-8 weeks, your plants will no longer be able to take nutrient via this medium as it “locks out” essential parts of your nutrient.
Lots of people steer clear of hydro systems, too. Mothers get big and bushy quickly. As a result, they produce too many cuttings and are tougher to maintain. Unless you want lots of clones, it's best to keep a small - medium sized mother.
Most people use a large pot of soil or cellmax.
In soil, build a root mass in a small 10cm pot for 3 - 4 weeks before moving the plant into a 11 Litre pot. This should be big enough for most small to medium size mother plants (up to 5 foot).
Make sure you keep your mother plant in vegetative growth, you need to:
- Use a blue grow light
- Run an 18hrs on + 6hrs off
A 125W - 250W light will do the trick. Nothing too intense - just something to keep it ticking over.
If you've got a vegging tent, your can keep your mother here.
Just bear in mind she'll be a different height and size to the rest of your vegging plants. This means:
- She'll shadow nearby vegging plants, causing uneven growth
- The light hanging height won’t be the same for your mother as other vegging plants
For best resuslts, keep your mother in a tent of her own. You can actually buy a kit for her.
You can be place your rockwool cubes directly into pots of compost or rockwool (cellmax) or NFT systems.
Try to use plant stress relievers like Nitrozyme, Superthrive & Rhizotonic when transplanting to help with the shock.& These products also contain boosters and stimulants that can shorten rooting times and bolster cuttings.
pH, Feeds & Additives
In soil, don't adjust pH of your feed - just use good grow formulas and additives (like Bio-Bizz Grow and Bio-Bizz Algamic) to replenish micro nutrients in your media.
In hydro, try and keep the pH of the nutrient solution between about 5.8 and 6.7. Use a good hydroponic Grow Nutrient, like Superthrive and Nitrozyme.
Avoid feeds and additives designed for flowering plants.
To stop your mother getting too tall, and to maximise space, keep her well pruned.
You can take tips, branches or cuttings from anywhere on the plant, to help utilise light and space.
Over time, your mother will inevitable get too big and bushy. At this point, to preserve your genetics, you can take cuttings from her to make a new mother plants.
Preparing to take Cuttings
You can take cuttings from anywhere on your mother.
The lower branches are older and woodier. They have less sugar and more carbohydrates. Cuttings from these branches may root quicker and be less susceptible to rot.
The newer top shoots, once rooted, may grow quicker.
Either will make good cuttings.
When to Take Cuttings
As your mother gets a bit big and bushy, replace her with a cutting from herself.
This is a really good idea if she's spent a long time in the same pot or system - we don't want bacteria or disease to start or spread.
You can keep a mother plant for anything between 6 months and 3 years before the plant starts to break down and lose its vigour, yield, smell or other characteristics. At this point you need to find fresh, new, vigourous stock from seed and start the process all over again.